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How to Navigate the ETF Tables

Below is a guide for reading the exchange-traded fund tables in Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine.

FUND

To limit the number of funds in our tables, we’ve left out funds that are less than a year old.

STYLE

U.S. stock funds are described by the kinds of companies they invest in most heavily. Companies are divided into large (with a stock-market value in the largest 70% of stocks), small (the smallest 10%), and midsize (between large and small), and they are characterized as rapidly growing, undervalued or a blend of the two. Nine styles derive from these elements: LarGro (large growth), LarBlnd (large blend), LarVal (large value), MidGro (midsize growth), MidBlnd (midsize blend), MidVal (midsize value), SmlGro (small growth), SmlBlnd (small blend) and SmlVal (small value). Other styles: Hybrid funds include balanced, convertible-bond and asset-allocation funds; and LngShrt (long-short) funds use short selling to limit losses.

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International stock funds have substantial overseas holdings and are divided into eight categories: Divers (diversified) funds invest primarily in stocks of larger companies based outside of the U.S. DivSmMid (diversified small and midsize) funds concentrate on small and midsize foreign companies. DivEM (diversified emerging markets) funds invest in a variety of developing markets and RegEM (regional emerging markets) funds invest in developing markets of one area. Regional funds invest in one area and SngCntry (single country) funds invest in stocks of just one country. Realty funds invest in foreign-based real estate companies. Global funds may invest in the U.S. as well as overseas.

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Sector funds are divided into eight categories based on the sector in which they are most heavily invested: Financial, Health, Metals (precious metals), Misc (miscellaneous sectors), NatrlRsc (natural resources), Realty, Tech (technology) and Utilities.

Commodity funds track the prices of commodities. They are divided into AltStrat (funds that track alternative strategies), Metals (funds that track prices of precious or non-precious metals) and NatrlRsc (funds that track the prices of other commodities, such as oil, natural gas or agricultural commodities).

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Taxable, tax-free bond and currency funds are described by the type of bonds they invest in most heavily. Bonds are divided into corporate, government and municipal, and classified by their average time until maturity. Short-term bonds will mature in less than three years, intermediate-term in three to ten years, and long-term in more than ten years. Nine styles emerge from these elements: ST Corp (short-term corporate), IT Corp (intermediate-term corporate), LT Corp (long-term corporate), ST Govt (short-term government), IT Govt (intermediate-term government), LT Govt (long-term government), ST Muni (short-term municipal), IT Muni (intermediate-term municipal) and LT Muni (long-term municipal). Other styles: Currency funds may track foreign currencies or the performance of the U.S. dollar against other currencies. HY Corp (high-yield corporate) funds own mostly lower-grade bonds. Intl (international) funds have substantial assets in bonds from nations outside the U.S. Misc (miscellaneous) funds invest in a variety.

Inverse Market funds make bets against certain types of investments, which may be described by any of the above styles.

TOTAL RETURN

Measures the change in value, assuming that dividend and capital-gains distributions were reinvested. Returns for three- and five-year periods are annualized -- that is, stated on an average annual basis. A dash in a three, five- or ten-year column means the fund hasn’t existed that long.

12-MONTH YIELD

Included with bond funds. To figure your taxable-equivalent yield on tax-free bond funds, divide the number in this column by 1 minus your income-tax bracket.

EXPENSE RATIO

Represents the percentage of a fund’s assets taken out annually to cover management fees and other expenses. Expenses are included in total-return numbers.

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